By Terry Dean
Oak Park and River Forest High will no longer have a dean of discipline position after this school year.
The school plans to revamp the discipline dean model entirely, moving the focus more toward intervening before students misbehave as opposed to punishing kids after they do. Along with recasting them as "student intervention directors," the new positions will also fall within administration, whereas the current deans are classified as "teaching positions," covered under the faculty contract.
The school plans to have the new model in place for the 2012-2013 school year. The goal is to move current deans into this new role. Administrators must have a Type 75 education certificate and three of the current deans have this certification. The fourth dean is currently working on getting the certificate and will also be offered the new position.
Per the Illinois school code, OPRF has to give prior notice to employees before a dismissal. The deans have yet to accept or decline the offer, said Lauren Smith, OPRF's assistant superintendent for human resources. The deans have until April 2 to do so, and if any decline, the positions will be posted publicly, Smith said. If the deans do accept, they could be hired as early as April 12.
"We'd like to hire them by our next school board meeting," Smith said, referring to the current deans. If they decline, Smith said the school hopes to hire the new staff by July.
Prior to the creation of the discipline dean position, OPRF school counselors handled discipline cases. The intervention directors will still work closely with students, Smith said. Each dean has a current caseload of about 800 kids. As intervention directors, they'll also take on administrative duties, including participating in teacher evaluations.
Smith described this new role as helping teachers with such things as classroom management or assisting department heads with evaluating new teachers. With respect to discipline, Smith said the school wants all of the adults in the building to help students improve their behavior.
At the March 22 school board meeting, trustees voted 6-1 to dismiss the current deans. Sharon Patchak-Layman was the lone dissenter, concerned that this decision is being made before the school embarks on strategic planning this upcoming school year. She also had concerns that the position was not being posted publicly. Another concern was that creating this position within administration would take the staff away from working with kids. Patchak-Layman urged the school to hold-off on the change.
"I think having one year left is a good opportunity to have this as a transition year where we can have all of these conversations take place," she said.
Other board members disagreed, arguing that this new model is in line with the school's ongoing effort to move toward intervention. They also supported moving the current deans into this new role.
"We have three people we're maintaining. We're changing their role and title but retaining that institutional knowledge of staff who have served us well," said board member Terry Finnegan.
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